Just like you, your child is an individual- whether 2 weeks, 2 years or 20 years old, your child is still your child and it can be immensely frustrating if you have a food issue. After all, this wonderful child you carried/adopted/fostered has his/her own sense of taste and you can’t make it be what YOU want overnight- when it comes to their tummies, kids are in control. The best thing you can do is to give *appropriate portion sizes of good, healthy foods, and hope that they follow through with the rest. The problem comes in when your parenting style and food issues clash. Because the only road to take, really, is the high road. You just need to be equipped with the tools to make the high road a little bit lower. Without the kids realizing it. Take a deep breath guys… you’re going to get some old school advice. Make dinner time a little more joyful with these silly (but true) tips on getting your kids to eat right. It may not be popular… but here it goes:
It’s okay to fudge the truth a little bit regarding food with your kids. Yes, I said it FOOD. LIES. WORK.
Now I’m not advocating force feeding, hiding meat in a recent vegetarian convert’s food, etc. I’m talking about real life experience with small kids. Everyone uses SOME sort of food lie. Even if they don’t realize it, or will admit it. Here’s just a sampling of some of our favs… and they work!
Bait and switch:
- Aka this food is just like that food. Sometimes you want to or need to introduce new foods to your kids. Fresh asparagus from the garden? Prunes meant to aid in… digestion? They’re like a cross between green beans or peas… or ‘just big raisins’. The idea is that of course you introduce a new food as a big brother, little brother, or BFF to something else that the kid at least tolerates, if not LOVES!
Dinner’s not done yet:
- When the kids are in the high chair, we give them a bit of this and a bit of that, typically while we’re cooking, but once they’re ready to sit at the table, they feel like equals, and so, it’s war. So how do we get them to eat their veggies? This is a 2 part one, so brace yourself!
- Part 1: Start cooking, chopping, and plating vegetables before any other part of your dinner. This way they’re ready when the kids are ready to eat.
- Park 2: Cut off their snacks, or limit them to a small snack immediately after naptime, and limit calorie heavy drinks. They’ll be hungry.
- Employing this ‘dinner’s not done yet, but here’s some veggies’ strategy works every time. If they’re hungry, put them at the table, add a few veggies to their plates, and watch them munch! It doesn’t matter if it’s carrot sticks and peppers with dip, a spinach salad shared with everyone, or a spoon full of peas. A goal should be to have a least one favorite veggie and one questionable one on the plate. A hungry kid is more likely to try a new food if it has a partner that doesn’t have a stigma attached. Hold off on the mac and cheese until those plates are clean!
The no thank-you bite:
- Kids giving a new food the eyeball? Giving the eyeball to something you know they like or will like, but are simply refusing to try? This is great for seasonal foods that you don’t see very often. Require them to take a no thank-you bite. Oftentimes you can tell by the look on their faces as to whether they like it or not. Most of the time, if you’re a decent cook, they’re going to smile (no matter how hard they try to fight it.) Revel in being right. That’s right. Rub it in. They’ll remember the next time they need to take a bite that the last time? It was SO good! Conversely, if the kid turns green? Don’t push another bite. You wouldn’t want to be forced to eat something that makes you gag, would you?
The take 2 bites and you’re done rule:
I said this was war, right? Sometimes kids just want a bit of extra attention and drag it out. Nothing is eaten for 10 minutes. This is when you tell them to take 2 bites, and then LOOK AWAY. Yes on purpose. As I said, you’re not taking the low road, you’re just lowering the high road a little bit. Food lies work. Let them work for you. You can say ‘oh what you took a bite?’ take another one and I’ll watch. Repeat. Make sure they’re normal sized bites. Little bites don’t count. For most kids going through this stage, 2 or 3 bites is probably pretty close to their serving anyway. The idea is to promote the healthy foods without overwhelming them. Bonus: Kids learn to count.
You need to eat some (protein, fruit, etc) to get healthy and strong:
This is at least a true one. Just like when you talk about the alphabet, counting, colors, or shapes, take dinner time to remind your kids why they need everything on their plates. Let’s be honest, at some points you’re going to have take-out. That isn’t generally filled with veggies and a full serving of fruit. If you’re lazy like us, you’re getting take out because… you feel lazy. You’re not going to go chop veggies on the side. If you were going to do that, you’d be cooking. That’s true for us, and I bet it’s true for you too. All that in mind, try and focus on a full day or a full week of what your child is eating. If you’re a little low on veggies for the week? Put more veggies on the plate. Talk about how different vitamins help you see better or make your bones grow strong. If you’re low on protein? Explain about building muscle. Kids are fascinated with their bodies. Use that to your advantage.
The magic ingredient:
You know there’s one out there. Pick it now. The magic ingredient. Something you wouldn’t be afraid to shake over your food. Or at least pretend to. It might be a seasoned salt, oregano, or sour cream. It might have magical properties that are unheard of by anyone else. Your kid, your rules. Something you can’t add? It was on there before. Something they don’t want on there? Oops, your mistake. It was never there. That’s what’s so magical.
Now like I said, either you’ll think this is brilliant, or think that it’s dumb. It’ll work for you, or you think these will work for no one. Just sharing what’s worked, for us at the least. You might find it uncouth, deviant, or wrong. I’m okay with that. All of that. We have kids that munch peppers, sometimes that’s all that’s for lunch. Eventually they work in what’s good for them, they’ll learn what’s healthy, and they’ll be used to regulating their hunger. It will be second nature to eat a variety of foods. That’s what works for us. That’s what counts for us.
Do you have any food tricks, treats, or lies that work? Share them in the comments!
*If you’re a member of the clean plate club, this is especially important- do not make the serving sizes too large. If full plates of food going in the trash make you crazy, it’s simple, just put less on the plate. Hungry kids will eat what they have and ask for more. Establish this ground rule and you’re golden.
***Note: This is not medical advice. This should not be looked at instead of talking to your child’s doctor about proper nutrition and diet. These are fun tips to entertain you and get your kids to (hopefully) sneak in a few more elusive bites of food at the dinner table. Use your own best judgement, speak to your children and follow your pediatrician’s lead and your own gut.